Now while most anyone reading this already heard the results from me weeks ago, I wanted to wait to blog about it until I could upload the telecast. But this week I learned that the tape delay is not going to air until November and so now I'm awkwardly fumbling to tie together the play-by-play from some piecemeal, fading memories. After all, even immediately after the fight it's a bit tough to give a detailed, first-hand account when you're the one actually in the squared circle.
So until I come through with "Plan A" and am able to post the fight, I'm left just with some high-level musings - perhaps the most important being that this was one of the most "natural" feeling fights I've ever had.
With weigh-ins at 2 p.m. and fights starting at 4, I was left with the awkward task of waking up and killing a few hours around my apartment, all the while wearing three layers of sweats, not expending any energy (especially no nervous energy) and not eating or drinking anything. Fortunately, my years of boxing have made these periods of time routine and almost Zen-like: slipping on my "fight night" long underwear, sweats and hoodie; neatly packing my banana, Powerbar and ziplock baggie of wheat pasta for after the weigh-in; taking some ibuprofen and stretching out; syncing my iPod and spacing out to a mellow playlist; and, most importantly, pre-determining where I'll have my "fat kid" meal after the fight.
I took a bus to the venue and waited to weigh in. Same-day weigh-ins are always a little spooky - the empty building waiting for the crowd to trickle in, silent speakers and random organizers scrambling to make last arrangements before the doors open...and you just sitting there, wearing too many layers and unable to really do anything but try to relax until you step on the scale.
I weighed in at 155, which, frankly, was annoying. Not only did I not need to cut weight the night before/day of (at all - in the slightest) but if I put in a little time at the sauna 24 hours earlier, I could have easily made 152. But hindsight's 50/50 and I felt 100% strong and fresh on the scales, so there was no apprehension as I idled in the locker room, had my hands wrapped and warmed up.
Since my gym (Boston Boxing) was hosting the event, my trainer was more than preoccupied. I had a trainer from a gym we're close with (the good folks at Nonantum Boxing) wrap my hands, and one of our assistant trainers held pads and helped warm me up. Frankly, the way the past months have gone, I wasn't thrown off by the different faces involved in my pre-fight routine.
As mentioned earlier, the fight itself was a bit of a blur. Given that my opponent had a few inches height advantage on me and trained with a gym that produces very, very technically skilled fighters, I expected a healthy dose of jabs and straight punches, and didn't think he'd forfeit the center of the ring without a fight.
Not only was I expecting this, but given my style, I was hoping for it. And sure enough, it's exactly what I got.
The opening minute of the bout looked like more of a catch drill than a traditional feeling-out period. Both of us wanted to control the center of the ring, but both of us also wanted to establish our jabs. Rather than always "getting off first," I found myself with the opportunity to "always finish last," whether it be simply doubling up my jab, throwing 3-2-3's after parrying, or simply stepping in behind a jab, shortening my arms and flurrying. By the end of the round, I knew that so long as I stayed tight and didn't get sloppy, I'd be able to fight my fight and better control the bout.
I made Round 2 much more of a fight - not a brawl, mind you, but I came out of my corner far more aggressive and threw"with bad intentions" more then the first round. I was able to control the center of the ring as well as the pace of the fight, keeping my distance with jabs but hiding behind a healthy dose of lead 2's (many landing) and using them to setup step-overs and flurries. With a tight guard and some strategic tie-ups (and maybe, just maybe a wee bit of holding) on my part, these flurries stayed one-sided, as I kept my opponent frustrated and unable to exchange.
The third round is where things get fuzzy - not because my memory is fuzzy, but because it was an almost surreal, out-of-body experience. I was in my element, slipping, moving and flurrying in a round that was equal parts Hopkins and Hagler. It was natural and pure to the point that - in retrospect - it was seemingly effortless. As I began to time my opponent, everything else fell into place. I threw first, landed last, tied him up and kept him off balance with different steps and combinations. Even when I caught myself leaning in or bending too much at the waist, I'd keep my base sound and throw punches from these different angles, turning my movements into a beautifully awkward yet somehow coordinated offensive.
Some people call it the fastest three minutes in sports. Well that day, it was the fastest and most relaxed, the most natural and automatic and strangely efficient round I can remember putting together. And yes I feel comfortable saying this in the face of me not remembering details and really only being able to say with certainty that "I went out there and boxed well." Which I guess is also the best and most telling part of it all...
After the final bell rang, I embraced my opponent and shook hands with his corner multiple times. Within a few minutes, I was back in the center of the ring with my arm raised, nodding with pride as a sheepish grin spread and I continued to wonder where the last 9 minutes of boxing came from.
While the details of the fight seem to have instantaneously blurred into a muddled, boxing euphoria, the experience still provided some major learnings. Namely: Always fight within myself. Trust my experience and listen to what my body (during training) and mind (in the ring) are telling me. Box first, brawl second - but don't be afraid to change it up with both.
And, most importantly, when my corner hollers to let my hands go, let my body go with them. I'm a boxer, and once I'm not thinking about or doing anything else, good things can happen.